Faith and Heritage, and Baixa & Alfama

With just a few hours to spare at Fatima, we decided to make one last visit to the sanctuary for a little time in prayer and to offer some votive candles for our intentions and the intentions of our family and friends. That’s when we realized that we had missed out on the beautiful statue of Blessed Pope John Paul II , set against the imposing crucifix that stands next to the Church of the Holy Trinity. If you look at the base of his crosier, it is the only part of the statue that shines bright- a sign of devotion that pilgims have when they hold onto his crosier and pray for his intercession . “Santo Subito” “Esta Es el Papa de la Juventud del Mundo”

Rui from Around Lisbon was there as promised – on time and we took the road again through some breathtaking countryside towards the town of Batalha, to visit the imposing Monastery built in fulfillment of a sacred promise following the Portuguese victory. This UNESCO site is one of the most amazing works of architecture harmoniously blending Gothic, Manueline and Rocco articterual styles and is the final resting place of some of this country’s great royalty. Particularly interesting are the tombs and ornate depiction of the twelve apostles over the main entrance of the monastery. Its fascinating to see the patterns created on the columns and floor as the sunlight seeps through the beautiful stained glass windows on the sides of the monadstery and the altars. Certainly a place where you could spend hours just admiring the work of the artisans of old exploring its interior. Most of which survived the test of time.

From Batalha we headed towards the fishing village of Nazare, at this time of the year packed with thousands of Portuguese and tourists seeking to soak in the sun. The drive up to Situ is an experience in itself, and once there the vibrant mix of colors, the calls of the street vendors and the smell of sardines and meat being grilled can only be topped by some of the best seafood that Nazare has on offer.

And once again, Rui outdid himself. The Buzio is a little restaurant that serves one of the best ‘Caldeirada’ – a Portuguese speciality that throws in a mix of fish, and the Espetada de Tambourille – a skewer of seafood served over a bed of aroz e batatas. The sardines were exceptional and for the portions and taste, the tab is worth it. The deserts are another great experience – especially the Bab de camel – that literally means the drool of the camel, but has nothing to do with camels!!! Never refuse the starters that include tremos (a kind if pea), sea snails and percebos(a type of barnacle).

In true Iberian tradition, such a meal deserved to end in a siesta, but Rui wanted to make the best of the time and took us by a veritably less used coast road for another breathtaking drive past the Obidos lagoon towards the town of Obidos – famed for its Moorish castle and the Ginjinha cherry liquer.

We were in luck as Obidos was playing host to the annual medieval festival and although the place was sure to be crowded, we could expect some excitement. The ancient Moorish castle was in a festive mood with residents from the adjoining villages dressed in old costumes, selling trinkets and souvenirs as well as food. A young girl selling flower wreaths ensured that women entering would look like the maidens of yore. At the entrance to the castle was a lady playing a bronze statue and if it wasn’t for the merriment in her eyes, and the occasional graceful changing of posture, no one would think she was for real.

The castle is an amazing labyrinth of alleys and quaint houses, most converted into little souvenir shops, cafes or restaurants. My favorite though was a little tavern (oops, forgotten the name……will update) reputed to sell the best ginjinha in Obidos, and even for those who are not in favour of this wonderful cherry liqueur, the beautiful interiors of the place make it worth the visit. The highlight of the evening was a performance by a group of musicians attierd in medieval costumes playing some medieval folk music on the lower steps of the ramparts. A little later, we chanced upon a mixed group of actors again attired in medieval dress making their way up the fort for a possada.

It was a wonderful experience – pushing through the crowds, basking in the warm sun and taking in the joie de vivre that exuded from everyone, each seeking to make the most of this great Moorish adventure.

FINDING US A FADO

Returning back from Obidos, Gil and Tiago asked if we were game for an evening out, knowing that we had had a rather long day from Fatima to Batalha, Nazare and Obidos. I was not sure if Zelma and the children would want to stretch the day still later, but when they heard that the plan was to go and listen to some Fados, everyone jumped at the idea.

We grabbed a quick pizza and salad at ‘Music Burguer’ just off the Marques de Pombal, and hurried back to the hotel where Gil, Tiago and another friend Nuno, were waiting for us.It was a little past 10 pm. Gil and Tiago can really talk Lisbon, having grown up together and adventured as little lads through the many quaint and maze-like alleys of old Lisbon. Only the mosst adventurous would venture out into the back alleys of Lisbon in the late evening, but with three seasoned locals the whirlwind tour of the old city was not just exciting but a well guided info-packed drive until we got to the Chapel of ‘Miradoura da Senhora do Monte’ that offers a spectacular night view of the city. I cursed myself for only carrying a small camera, but the pictures as you will see are amazing.

We drove down the winding lanes into the Alfama, hoping as Gil said, that we would find ourselves a Fado. We parked the vehicle outside the Fado Museum in the lowers quarters of the Alfama, had a couple of cervejas and began slowly climbing up the narrow cobblestone roads, silent except for the light laughter of late diners, the romantic murmurings of lovers walking home and the plaintive sounds of the Portuguese guitar that accompanied the sultry voices of the fadistas.

In the Alfama, at that late hour, you really need to have insider knowledge if you hope to find a place where a performance is happening. After a couple of closed doors (and limited seats), we finally were let in at the’Tasco Fora de Moda’. Ana Paulo was at her peak, and as we walekd in, disturbing the moment with our squeaky shoes and dragging chairs, I could sense that our intrusion into that ‘sacred’ moment was not really appreciated by these die-hard Fado afficionados. Even Diogene and Nyleptha who had never heard a Fado before, were enthralled by the beautiful singing, and all of us were
quite dissapointed when the group decided it was time for a break when we had just begun listening.

But for any music lover, it is an experience that cannot be missed. And I am deeply grateful to Gil and Tiago for this unique experience. We walked down the
deserted and dark alleys, there could have been no better way to end the adventure than with a bowl of piping hot Caldo Verde and freshly Pao con Choricoes –
It’s a little after two… exhausted but excited we tumble into our beds knowing we have an early day – Oh Portugal!

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